WHY FEET FIRST?
Touching is an intimate act. Whether it is a hearty handshake or a tender embrace, when we touch another person, something happens between us. A relationship begins. If we continue to reach out to each other, the relationship grows. We share and exchange, and we are enriched. We may give presents, meals, time, interest, or love, but we are really always giving the same gift -- ourselves. Reflexology offers the perfect opportunity for giving the gift of ourselves in a way that brings health and well-being to those we care about. My husband Warren and I know immediately when the other is having a stressful day, and we also know exactly what to do about it. Grab a foot! Within minutes we can dispel each other's stress or anxiety.
Touching the feet. We hardly ever do it. Some people even manage to put on their shoes and socks without really coming into contact with their feet. This is one of the reasons reflexology can revolutionize our lives. It is something we don't ordinarily do! It is special, something out of the ordinary. It provides a valuable opportunity for us to let go of the usual problems and activities of the day and relax with someone we enjoy being with and then just "be." Most of us live lives that have very little time for this. We live in a sea of noise, deadlines, interruptions, worries, responsibilities, and distractions that keep us from being with those we love. Reflexology can provide a quiet island in the course of each day where we can get together, stop the commotion, take stock of what is really important, and renew ourselves so we can return to our busy worlds with more energy and enthusiasm.
Reflexology can be the first step in discovering other ways to live happier and healthier lives. By putting your feet first with reflexology, you'll realize how good you can feel; and you'll want to learn how to find other quiet islands for taking care of yourself and your loved ones. Studies have shown that people who incorporate activities like meditation, reading, absorbing hobbies, or physical exercise into their schedules -- either alone or with someone else -- tend to be healthier, happier, and more efficient in all areas of their lives. Reflexology can be your introduction to these kinds of relaxing and renewing moments. So take the first step by putting your feet first. Let your feet not only take steps but become the first step in leading you to discover other ways to live more fully.
WHAT EXACTLY IS REFLEXOLOGY?
Reflexology, is a method for activating the healing powers of the body. It is both old and new. From ancient texts, illustrations, and artifacts, we know that the early Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Russians, and Egyptians worked on the feet to promote good health. Today many of these same techniques have been developed into a modern scientific method called reflexology. What joins the ancients with the moderns is the long-established principle that there are energy zones that run throughout the body and reflex areas in the feet that correspond to all the major organs, glands, and body parts.
In the early years of the twentieth century, Dr. William Fitzgerald developed the modern zone theory of the human body, arguing that parts of the body correspond to other parts and offering as proof the fact that applying pressure to one area anesthetized a corresponding area. Dr. Edwin Bowers, Fitzgerald's colleague, used a dramatic demonstration to convince others of the theory's validity. He showed that he could stick a pin into a volunteer's face without causing pain if he first applied pressure to the point in the person's hand which corresponded to that area of the face.
In the 1930s, Eunice Ingham, a physiotherapist for Dr. Joseph Shelby Riley, who was also a student and advocate of the theory, used zone therapy in her work with patients. She concluded that since the zones ran throughout the body and could be accessed anywhere, some areas might be more accessible and effective than others. She was right. The feet were the most responsive areas for working the zones because they were extremely sensitive. Eventually, she mapped the entire body onto the feet and discovered that an alternating pressure on the various points had therapeutic effects far beyond the limited use to which zone therapy had been previously employed, namely, reduction of pain. And so reflexology was born.
Modern reflexology is both a science and an art. As a science, it requires careful study, faithful practice, a sound knowledge of the techniques, and skill. And yet as one of the healing arts, reflexology yields the best results when the reflexologist works with dedication, patience, focused intention, and above all, loving care.
Before we look at how and why reflexology works, let's consider its many benefits.
Reflexology reduces stress and induces deep relaxation.
Stress cannot be avoided. We live with it and in it everyday. In itself, stress is neither good nor bad. Playing tennis or giving a dinner party is stressful and yet exhilarating and fun. Stress becomes a problem, however, when we fail to manage it well, especially the stress that results from problems, frustrations, overwork, and worry. When we don't handle stress well, the body's defenses break down and we become more susceptible to illness and disease. It's been estimated that over seventy-five percent of all illness is stress-related. Reflexology reduces stress by generating deep, tranquil relaxation. Many of my clients routinely fall asleep during a reflexology session and testify on waking that the thirty or forty minutes of sleep were more beneficial and restorative than a full night of restless sleep. We all know how good it feels to lie down in the middle of a busy day. But lying down is just the first step. Beyond that lie the deep realms of relaxation and peace that help the body balance itself and allow healing energy to flow smoothly and gently throughout.
Every part of the body is operated by messages carried back and forth along neural pathways. Stimulation of sensory nerve endings sends information to the spinal cord and brain. The brain and spinal cord send instructions to the organs and muscles. The neural pathways are both living tissue and electrical channels, and can be impinged upon or polluted by many factors. When neural pathways are impaired, nerve function is impeded -- messages are delivered slowly and unreliably, or not at all, and body processes operate at less than optimum levels. The reflexologist stimulates more than 7,000 nerves when touching the feet, and encourages the opening and clearing of neural pathways.
Reflexology improves circulation.
We all know how important it is for blood to flow freely throughout the body, carrying oxygen and nutrients to all the cells that make up the tissues of the body and removing waste products of metabolism, and other toxins. What many of us aren't aware of is that the blood vessels contract and relax in this process and that their resiliency is most important for proper functioning. Stress and tension tighten up the cardiovascular system and restrict blood flow. Circulation becomes sluggish. By reducing stress and tension, reflexology allows the miles of cardiovascular vessels to conduct the flow of blood naturally and easily.
Reflexology cleanses the body of toxins and impurities.
The body has built-in mechanisms for cleansing itself, mainly the lymphatic, excretory, and integumentary systems (i.e., the lymph nodes, the kidneys and colon, and the skin). If these become blocked or function improperly, toxins and waste matter build up. A healthy body is like a healthy home: You have to take the garbage out regularly. By deepening relaxation, reflexology causes all the systems of the body to function more efficiently, including those that eliminate waste products.
Reflexology balances the whole system.
The technical term is homeostasis and it means being in a dynamic state of balance. To me it means togetherness and centeredness. The thousands of parts and areas of the body, each functioning according to its own laws and purposes, together make up only one body. For the body to be healthy, everything must work together. If one part is out of whack, other parts suffer. To keep the body running harmoniously, a tune-up is often needed. As after a motor tune-up, the end result is a machine that runs smoothly, with all its parts contributing synergistically.
Reflexology revitalizes energy.
Energy is very personal. We all experience it in our own ways. You know when your "juices are flowing" and when they're not. Sometimes energy is exciting and invigorating; at other times it is calm and restful. We each experience our energy levels in personal and subtle ways. But one thing is certain: Energy flows. It circulates consciously and unconsciously throughout the body on a physical, emotional, and mental level. There is also an energy of the spirit that is just as crucial to overall well-being as physical or mental energy. Like the old metaphysical issue of the One and the Many, there may be only one source of Energy in the universe, and each type we experience is an expression of it. Be that as it may, energy needs to be revitalized periodically. According to polarity theory, it must also flow unimpeded between the negative and positive poles that every atom and cell contains. Or in Oriental thought, the yin and yang energy currents must complement each other. In whatever terms make sense to you, feeling good and alive requires sufficient energy. By relaxing and opening up energy pathways, reflexology revitalizes the body and supplies it with energy on all levels.
When my grandmother was suffering from cancer in her eighties, she was usually weak and had very little energy to perform the normal daily activities of a woman her age. I gave her regular reflexology sessions and she always responded with renewed strength and energy. Doctors who treated her were amazed at what she could do when reflexology was an ongoing part of her health care. Although the cancer did not go into remission, her energy levels and natural vitality improved considerably.
Reflexology is preventive health care.
Preventive health care is becoming more important as we realize the health-threatening dangers of our environment: stress, fatigue, chemical additives in food, polluted water supplies, radioactivity, and poor air quality, to name only a few. The added strain on everyone's immune system today should warn us to find time to unwind and relax, because the immune system functions at its peak only when a person successfully manages the stressful situations of daily life. The immune system also responds synergistically, relying on other bodily processes to maintain its own lines of defense. Only when the body is well balanced is a person in good shape to ward off illness.
My clients who are teachers and parents tell me that they are less susceptible to catching colds during the flu seasons even though their kids sneeze and cough around them all the time. Adults don't have immunity to the bugs that children carry around. But reflexology seems to help in bolstering immunological defenses, and so they catch fewer colds. Children get fewer colds too when they receive reflexology.
Reflexology stimulates creativity and productivity.
Very few of us can perform at our best if we are sluggish and tired. Like exercise, reflexology restores mental alertness and improves the attention span. By reducing tensions and calming the mind, we are free to think our best thoughts, come up with our best ideas, and work longer and with greater clarity at difficult tasks. Each session provides the quiet time so necessary to let new ideas gestate. As a pick-me-up in the middle of the day or in the late afternoon, reflexology can send you back to work or into the evening with the mental energy you need to be creative and productive.
Reflexology nurtures relationships.
Reflexology can unite two people in a special, intimate relationship and strengthen that relationship every time you do it. Eventually the wonderful chemistry between the two of you spreads to others. When you feel good, others respond. My clients go back to their offices more patient and tolerant of co-workers, and pretty soon their presence changes the whole work environment. Feeling good is contagious!
Reflexology rewards the practitioner.
All body workers and healers will tell you that their work is rewarding, not just because they help others to feel good and enjoy better health but because when they act as a channel for healing energy, the circuit completes itself by bringing health and well-being to them too. They feel grounded and centered; their attention is focused and concentrated even as the recipient relaxes and becomes centered. In fact, just looking forward to giving a reflexology session has a calming effect on me. I know that for the next hour I'll be centered and grounded and can forget about the rest of the world for a while. Afterward, the reflexologist feels a great sense of satisfaction, and receives "strokes" of another kind in the gratitude and thank-yous lavished by the client.
HOW DOES REFLEXOLOGY WORK?
Since ancient times, healers have employed various methodologies to strengthen and balance the energy flow. Many of these systems, including acupuncture, shiatsu, and reflexology, agree that this energy flows in zones or meridians throughout the body. Reflexologists specify that there are ten energy zones that run the length of the body from head to toe -- five on each side of the body ending in each foot and running down the arms into the tips of the fingers. Not only do these zones run lengthwise, but they pass through the body, so that a zone located on the front of the body can also be reached from behind. All the organs and parts of the body lie along one or more of these zones.
Each zone can be considered a channel for the intangible life energy, called chi or qi in oriental medicine and martial arts. Stimulating or "working" any zone in the foot by applying pressure with the thumbs and fingers affects the entire zone throughout the body. For example, working a zone on the foot along which the kidneys lie will release vital energy that may be blocked somewhere else in that zone, such as in the eyes. Working the kidney reflex area on the foot will therefore revitalize and balance the entire zone and improve functioning of the organ.
The actual physical mechanism that controls the ten zones in the body and feet is not fully understood. That it works is proven every day, but exactly how it works is still a mystery. There are sound, reputable theories, however, suggesting that good health depends on balance, equilibrium, the natural functioning of all the body systems -- that we call homeostasis. Excessive stress disrupts this balance. In fact, the stress reaction is a very primitive response to a situation perceived as dangerous or threatening. It has been called the "fight or flight response" because our spontaneous reaction is to gear up the body and emotions either to fight off the attacker or run for our lives. The problem for contemporary people living in our modern civilization is that it isn't considered civilized to fight and there's no place to run! Unfortunately our adrenal glands don't know this, so the heartbeat becomes more rapid, the digestive system shuts down, and a chain of other physical reactions occur to prepare us for the looming "catastrophe." But often we do nothing except bottle it up and repress it. Eventually, the stress buildup "explodes" internally by knocking some part of our system out of balance.
Reflexology alleviates the effects of stress by inducing deep relaxation, placing us in a "safe space," and allowing the nervous system to calm down and function more normally. Circulation proceeds smoothly, blood flow is improved, and oxygen reaches all the cells. We are no longer activated for fight or flight. The body seeks homeostasis, and healing can take place. The person experiences a sense of well-being at all levels.
As in acupuncture or shiatsu, energy pathways are opened up, and the subtle energy that accompanies neurological and circulatory functioning can do its work. Order and harmony are restored. The body is normalized as the seven energy centers, known in Eastern medicine as the chakras, are unblocked. The body returns to its natural rhythms. Energy flows. The body, mind, and spirit are brought back into balance.
WHY THE FEET?
We live in a holographic universe. The energy information, knowledge, and wisdom of the All is contained in every cell and particle. Every day physicists are discovering just how interrelated the cosmos really is, and yet these discoveries would be considered old hat to the mystics and seers of the past and present. Evidence of this interweaving of All Life is all around us. We don't need rocks from the moon, shells from the ocean depths, or DNA material from the living body to see the correspondences. Just look at your feet.
As you can see in the illustration, the feet are a perfect microcosm or mini-map of the whole body. All the organs, glands and body parts represented in the foot are laid out in the same arrangement as in the body. Even the inside curve of the foot corresponds to the natural curves in the spine. The toes are like little heads. The ridge beneath them on the top part of the ball of the foot is a natural shoulder or neck line. The waist line tightens inward as it should! In fact, you can tell whether someone is high- or low-waisted just by checking out the waist line on the foot.
Other parts of the body exhibit these same correspondences, but less obviously. The hand, the ear, even the iris of the eye contain reflex points for the entire body. But these points are more specific in the feet; and because they are more spread out and accessible, they are easier to work with. We would need microscopic equipment to stimulate distinct reflex points in a cell. On the feet we can use our hands.
In fact, the feet are remarkably sensitive even though most of us would probably think that our hands beat out the feet when it comes to sensitivity. But not so. We are more familiar with our hands and know how to use them for sensing and manipulating the world. We love our hands, but we don't always love our feet. Nevertheless, the feet are actually more sensitive and receptive, partly because of the wealth of nerve endings and partly because we keep them covered and protected. I'm sure you've had the experience of drawing bathwater, testing it carefully with your hand before getting in, only to find that when your foot -- or big toe -- touches the water, it suddenly got too hot! No, it was always too hot -- for your foot if not for your hand.
The feet are also distant enough from the torso that most people are not threatened by having someone work on them. The head, heart, lung and trunk areas of the human body seem more private than the limbs or extremities. Since many people are not used to having someone else lay hands on their bodies, they can be self-conscious about having these parts touched. It helps them relax if the area being worked on is not too close to the "vital center."
The foot is also ideally shaped and sized for the human hand. We can hold a foot naturally and easily. It's neither too big nor too small. When receiving a reflexology treatment a person has a reassuring sense that the reflexologist is in control, as the hands can support the foot and touch it all over most of the time. It's not like massage, where the practitioner works on one part of the body, leaves it to move on to another, and may or may not return to the first area. In reflexology the receiver has a sense that even though the reflexologist's hands move around on the feet, it is the entire foot that is being worked on continuously. This is very reassuring and the effect is more holistic.
The feet ground us, literally and figuratively. They are our contact with the earth and the energies that flow through it. They are our base, our foundation. A steady foot means stability and security. When we "lose our footing," we lose our equilibrium and sense of balance. Our body -- and mind -- know all this whether we think about it consciously or not. On a deeper spiritual level, we also know that this grounding contact with the earth is rooted in who we are as people, a spirit incarnate in living flesh, and that we are made up of the elements just as the world around us is. English-speaking people live with an important insight whether we consciously hear it or not: We walk on our soles/souls.
There are some important biological and anatomical reasons for working with the feet. They are farthest from the heart, where circulation tends to stagnate. People with chronically poor circulation often have tender or swollen hands and feet. It is good to stimulate and encourage blood flow to these extremities. What's more, gravity pulls toxins downward. Inorganic waste materials such as uric acid and calcium crystals can build up in the bottoms of the feet. An experienced reflexologist can actually feel these deposits with his or her hands and break up these crystals with reflexology techniques. In general, circulation can stagnate in the feet. Kneading the feet during reflexology breaks up the deposits and improves circulation in the feet themselves.
Last, we owe it to our feet to do something good for them. Of all the parts of the body, they take a real beating. They bear our weight, they are under considerable tension, and we cram them into shoe styles (and sizes) that are not always best for them. Between concrete, inappropriate shoes, and poor postural habits, the muscles and joints of the modern foot receive little sustenance. In fact, many people experience tremendous daily pain in their feet, and tune it out of their conscious awareness with a neurological process known as adaptation. Yet even without awareness, constant pain takes its toll in muscle tension elsewhere in the body -- especially in the neck and shoulders -- and in increased fatigue, and irritability. Clients often express amazement at how much their feet need reflexology and how little they realized it.
We abuse our feet. You know how good it feels to take off your shoes and socks and wiggle your toes, let the air get to them, even put them up. It feels wonderful to free your feet. Reflexology is foot freedom and more.
WHAT REFLEXOLOGY IS NOT
There is a lot of misinformation about reflexology, as there is about many of the non-Western methods of healing. In general, reflexology is not massage and it is not medicine as practiced by Western-trained physicians. In plain language, it is not a foot massage and it is not a medical treatment. First and foremost, reflexologists do not diagnose illness, nor do they practice medicine. Only licensed physicians are allowed to do that according to law. Neither does a reflexologist treat specific diseases. Even though most of my clients tell me very specifically what their problems are -- and when you work on family members and friends you may know what ailments they suffer from -- we never proceed as if a reflexology session is going to cure these problems. We spend extra time working the reflex area on the foot that corresponds to the body part that is troubled, but our work cannot be classified as medical treatment as such.
From what we have already discussed, it should be plain that reflexology works with subtle energy flows, revitalizing the body so that the natural internal healing mechanisms of the body can do their own work. As a matter of fact, people do attest to better health, even sometimes a marked reduction or even disappearance of the ailment. But it was not the reflexologist nor the session that cured. Only the body cures.
The reflexologist is a channel of healing The laying on of hands and the specific techniques for applying pressure to the feet create the channels for healing energy to circulate to all parts of the body. No instruments or gadgets are ever used, only the hands. When practiced in conjunction with sound medical advice from your physician, reflexology facilitates healing.
FEET: THE MIRROR OF THE BODY
Each foot represents half of the body, the left and right foot corresponding to the left and right side of the body.
Here is a list of the divisions of the feet and the areas of the body to which they correspond:
TOES = Head and neck
BALLS OF FEET (METATARSALS) = Chest, lung area, shoulder
ARCH (UPPER PART) = Diaphragm to waist area, upper abdominal organs
ARCH (LOWER PART) = Waist to pelvic area, lower abdominal organs
HEEL = Pelvic area/sciatic nerve
INNER FOOT (MEDIAL SIDE) = Spine
OUTER FOOT (LATERAL SIDE) = Arm, shoulder, hip, leg, knee, lower back
ANKLE AREA = Pelvic area, reproductive organs
Using these divisions and the five zones, you can locate any area of the body on the mini-map of the foot. Let's say someone indicates a pain by pointing to the area just beneath the rib cage on the right and a little above the waist. Without knowing exactly what the problem is, you can locate the specific area on the foot. Since the pain is on the right, the reflex point would be on the right foot between the diaphragm line and the waist line and along zone 5. A reflex point is a specific area or point on the foot that corresponds to another part of the body. When stimulated by the thumbs or fingers, there is a response to the stimulus in another part of the body.
You will also notice another guideline for locating specific points on the foot. This is the long tendon that runs vertically down the arch between zones 1 and 2. To find the tendon, pull the toes back to stretch the skin tighter across the arch. The tendon will come forward. It is important not to apply pressure on the tendon itself when you are working this area, because doing so is painful. Always hop over the tendon when you are thumb walking in this area (described in the following chapter). As you become better acquainted with the foot, you'll begin to think of certain points as being either to the left or right of this tendon.
Now let's take a closer look at each section of the foot and the specific gland, organ, and body part to which each refers.
The toes correspond to the head and the neck. Specifically, each big toe is the "master toe" for that side of the body because all five zones which run down that side of the body converge in this toe. Each big toe contains reflex points for the pituitary, pineal, hypothalamus, brain, temples, upper and lower jaw, gums, teeth, throat, thyroid/parathyroid, and the seven cervical (neck) vertebra.
Considered the master gland, the pituitary is located at the base of the brain and directly secretes or controls the secretion of almost every hormone in the body. The pituitary, affects growth, sexual development, fever, fainting, pregnancy, lactation, metabolism, mineral and sugar contents of the blood, fluid retention, and energy levels -- to name just a few of its activities. Its reflex point is the center of the big toe on both feet.
A poorly understood gland in the brain that responds to levels of daylight perceived through the eye with release of the hormone melatonin. The pineal is thought to play a part in mood and circadian rhythms. It is often referred to as our intuitive gland or "third eve." Its reflex point is located in zone 1, at the inner side and top of the big toe on both feet.
This gland regulates the autonomic nervous system and controls emotional reactions, appetite, and body temperature. It has the same reflex point as the pineal.
Located in the neck, the thyroid controls metabolism. Its hormones regulate protein building by the body's cells, the rate at which nutrients are used by the body, and calcium levels. Metabolism affects the pace of our lives and our energy levels. The thyroid's reflex area is at the base of the big toe on both feet.
Situated around the thyroid, the parathyroid glands affect calcium and phosphorus levels, which are important for muscle tone and functioning.
The seventh cervical vertebra is the last vertebra in the neck. It protrudes at the base of the neck and can be easily felt. Many of the nerves of the arm and hand and the muscles of the neck pass by the seventh cervical vertebra. Its reflex point is located at the base of the big toe on the medial side of both feet in zone 1. The reflex points of cervicals 1 to 6 run from the base of the toenail to the seventh cervical, zone 1.
The small toes each contain one zone and are used for fine-tuning for head and neck ailments, such as sinusitis, eyestrain, hearing problems, jaw problems, and neck tension. The tips of all the toes should be worked for people with head or brain injuries and strokes.
The ridge at the base of the toes (actually on the ball of the foot) is worked as a helper reflex area for eye, ear, and eustachian tube disorders. This ridge corresponds to the neck/shoulder line; it is here that many people hold tension that can block circulation to the head.
THE BALL OF THE FOOT
The ball of the foot corresponds to the area of the body between the diaphragm and neck. Here are several vital reflex areas, including those for the heart and lungs.
Heart and Lungs
The lungs are light and spongy organs in the chest where the actual exchange of new, oxygenated air and used, deoxygenated air takes place. The heart is a hollow muscle which rhythmically contracts to pump the blood through the vessels in all parts of the body. Its reflex areas are on the left foot, zones 1 to 4, and on the right foot, zones 1 and 2. The chest area also contains other important structures, such as the major vessels leading to and from the heart (venae cavae, aorta), the tubes of the respiratory, and digestive system (trachea and esophagus), and the nerve which controls the diaphragm.
Another important structure in this region is the solar plexus, or the network of nerves in the autonomic (or involuntary) nervous system which regulates the functioning of the organs. The solar plexus is located between zones 2 and 3 on both feet beneath the diaphragm line.
On the front of the foot, between the first and second toes, is the reflex area for the drainage of the lymphatics in the neck/chest region of the body. The lymph system parallels the network of veins in the body, and serves two important functions: to remove large proteins from the tissue and return them to circulation for eventual elimination, and to produce the cells which defend the body from foreign bacteria and viruses. The lymph system also removes excess fluid which has accumulated in tissue spaces.
THE ARCH AND HEEL
Note on the illustration how the arch of the foot is divided into two parts. The upper part corresponds to the area from the diaphragm down to the waistline. The lower part corresponds to the body from the waistline to the pelvic line.
The upper part of the arch contains reflex areas for the liver and gallbladder, stomach, pancreas, duodenum, spleen, adrenals, and top part of the kidneys.
The liver is the largest organ and gland in the body, located beneath the diaphragm under the rib cage mostly on the right side. Its reflex area is on the right foot, zones 1 to 5, between the diaphragm line and the waist line. The liver processes all the nutrients from the blood, storing fats, sugars, and proteins until the body needs them. It detoxifies the blood and manufactures bile for fat digestion and important blood proteins. The liver has over 500 functions.
Embedded in the liver, the gallbladder stores bile used for breaking down fats. Its reflex point is between zones 4 and 5, about two fingers above the waistline on the right foot.
The stomach is located mostly on the left side of the body under the diaphragm. It churns food and begins protein breakdown. Its reflex area is found mostly on the left foot, zones 1 to 4, and on the right foot in zones 1 to 2.
The pancreas is behind the stomach, mostly on the left side of the body. Its reflex area is located mostly on the left foot, zones 1 to 4, and a little on the right, zones 1 to 1 1/2. The pancreas controls glucose levels in the blood and is involved in the building of proteins by the cells. The pancreas also sends important digestive enzymes into the small intestine.
The duodenum is the first C-shaped part of the small intestine and is responsible for the breakdown of food. The average length is about ten inches. It connects the pylorus of the stomach to the jejunum. It receives hepatic and pancreatic secretions. The reflex area to the duodenum is located on both feet, zone 1, medial to the tendon, on the waistline.
The spleen is on the left side of the body under the diaphragm and behind the stomach. Part of the lymphatic system, it produces lymphocytes and stores or filters out old and damaged blood cells. It filters the lymph of toxins and bacteria, and produces antibodies. It is an important part of our immune system. Its reflex point is found on the left foot between zones 4 and 5, about two finger widths above the waist line.
The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and have over fifty functions. Their reflex points are on both feet midway between the diaphragm line and waist line, in zone 1. The adrenals promote normal metabolism by controlling energy levels -- especially by increasing energy, in response to stress. The adrenals produce cortisone and cortisol, which have anti-inflammatory properties. The adrenals may be involved in sexual development. To a large extent, the adrenals are responsible for the organ changes in fight-or-flight reactions to stress, including increased heart rate, vasoconstriction, increased breathing rate, increased efficiency of muscle contractions, and improved balance of metabolism.
The lower part of the arch contains reflex areas and points for the kidneys, ureters, bladder, small intestines, appendix, ileocecal valve, and colon.
The kidneys, in the mid-back area, are the master filters of the body. They filter toxins from the blood and produce urine. They also regulate retention of important minerals and water. Their reflex areas are found on both feet in zone 3, on the waist line.
These tubes connecting the kidneys and bladder are passageways for urine. Their reflex areas are on both feet, in zone 1, between the pelvic and waist lines.
The bladder, in the center of the lower abdomen, is a storage place for urine. Its reflex area is at the heel line on both feet, zone 1.
The small intestine secretes some digestive juices and absorbs digested foods, water, vitamins, and minerals. Its reflex area is found on both feet from the waist line to the pelvic line inside the large intestine area, zones 1 to 4.
The ileocecal valve lies between the small and large intestines, prevents backflow of fecal matter from large to small intestine, and controls mucous secretion. Its reflex point is found on the right foot in zone 5, about two finger widths below the waist line.
The colon ascends from the ileocecal valve, between zones 4 and 5, turns under the liver, crosses over at the waist line, and turns down under the spleen, to become the sigmoid colon. It absorbs water, and stores and eliminates mucus and waste material.
The appendix, located at the beginning of the colon, lubricates the large intestine, and may secrete antibodies. Its reflex point is located on the right foot, zone 5, two finger widths below the waist line (same place as ileocecal valve).
This S-shaped section of the colon is the last intestinal turn before the body wastes empty into the rectum for elimination. Gas can become trapped here. Its reflex point is on the left foot, in zone 3 1/2 at the middle of the heel.
Beneath the sigmoid colon and on both heels is the sciatic nerve. This is the only area that is not a reflex area but an actual nerve, running from the base of the heel up the leg and into the buttocks.
THE INNER FOOT
Look down at your feet, and notice that the inside of each foot is naturally curved to correspond to the spine. In zone 1, the area from the base of the big toenail to the base of the toe, corresponds to the cervical vertebrae found in the neck. The large bulge beneath the big toe corresponds to the thoracic section of the spine (shoulders to waistline). The indentation between the middle of the foot and the heel (waist line to pelvic line) corresponds to the lumbar region. The area from the heel line to the base of the heel corresponds to the sacrum/coccyx, the very base of the spine. The reflex area for the bladder is found just below the lumbar region on the inside of each foot.
The thymus is a lymphatic organ located in front of and above the heart. Its primary function is to develop immunity, in children. On the foot, the thymus gland is located in zone 1, along the reflex to the spine, in the neck area.
THE OUTER FOOT
Looking down at your feet, you can see that the outer edge of zone 5 corresponds to the outer part of the body: shoulder and upper arm (base of toe to diaphragm line); elbow, forearm, wrist, and hand (diaphragm line to waist line); leg, knee, and hip (from the fifth metatarsal to the heel line). (The metatarsals are the bones that run from the base of the toes down the foot to the waist line. The fifth metatarsal is easily found by running your finger down the outside of the foot to where you feel a bone sticking out on zone 5 -- on the outside edge of the foot at the waist line.
The area around each ankle on each foot corresponds to the pelvic area and reproductive organs. The outer ankle area contains the ovary/testicle reflex points; the inner ankle contains reflex points for the uterus/prostate, vagina, penis, and bladder. Reflex points for the fallopian tubes, lymph drainage area in the groin, vas deferens, and seminal vesicles are found in a narrow band running from below the anklebone across the top of the foot from one anklebone to the other. (See illustration.) The general chronic pelvic/rectum/prostate/uterus and sciatic nerve area begins about six inches above the anklebone and runs down to the uterus/prostate point below the ankle.
The sciatic nerve travels down both sides of the leg and across the heel like a stirrup. This is the actual nerve, not a reflex area. Therefore it is usually quite sensitive.
The ovaries lie to the right and left of the uterus and produce ova and female hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, which are responsible for female sexual development. Their reflex points are located on both feet, on the outside of the ankles, midway on a diagonal from the base of the heel to the anklebone.
These are the two glands in the scrotum that produce sperm and the male hormone testosterone. Their reflex points are found on both feet on the outside of the ankles, midway on a diagonal from the base of the heel to the anklebone.
This gland surrounds the neck of the bladder in the male, and secretes the fluid part of the semen. Reflex points are located on both feet, on the inside of the ankles, midway on a diagonal from the base of the heel to the anklebone.
Located in the mid-pelvic area, the uterus contains and nourishes the fetus during pregnancy. Reflex points are located on both feet on the inside of the ankles, midway on a diagonal from the base of the heel to the anklebone.
A pair of tubes that serve as passageways for the egg as it travels from the ovary to the uterus. Reflex areas are located on both feet across the top of the foot from one anklebone to the other.
Seminal Vesicles/Vas Deferens
The seminal vesicles are organs lying next to the prostate which store semen. The vas deferens is the tube that carries the sperm from the prostate to the urethra. The reflex areas are located on both feet across the top of the foot from one anklebone to the other.
You will learn more about these areas and how the glands and organs of the body function and how they unite to form systems as you read along. In the next chapter we'll learn the various thumb and finger techniques for working the foot and how to apply them to the different areas of the feet, and then you'll be ready to put it all together and give a full reflexology session.
A SPECIAL WORD ABOUT REFERRAL AREAS
If the foot or leg itself is injured, you will have to work referral areas on the shoulder, arm and hand on the same side of the body. These are the points and energy zones that have a special correspondence to those on the legs and feet. If we were still walking on all fours as our evolutionary ancestors did, we would be more aware of the similarities; but since we walk upright and use our hands and arms in a different manner than our feet and legs, we forget that they have the same anatomical roots.
Here are the correspondences.
FOOT = Hand
SOLE OF FOOT = Palm of hand
TOP OF FOOT = Back of hand
BIG TOE = Thumb
SMALL TOES = Fingers
ANKLE = Wrist
CALF = Forearm (inner)
SHIN = Forearm (outer)
KNEE = Elbow
THIGH = Upper arm
HIP = Shoulder
When the feet are injured or too sore to be worked on directly, work the hands instead. The energy zones that run from the feet up the legs to the head have their corresponding routes running from the fingertips up the arms and shoulders. Even if your feet are not too sensitive to work on, you can still work your hands during the course of a day to enhance recovery or to work on a specific area that needs attention.
Use referral areas when the feet are swollen or too sensitive to work on. This is especially true of swelling caused by an injury. Swelling is nature's cast, surrounding and protecting the injured area. It is part of the healing process, but excess swelling -- that is, swelling that persists too long -- can cause adhesions in the injured area, or atrophy. Reflexology can facilitate the healing process when done either on a referral area, in the case of a foot or leg injury, or on the feet themselves, when the injury is elsewhere on the body.
I once worked on a woman who had a painful bunion on her left foot which, according to the podiatrist with whom I was associated at the time, was causing her severe headaches. The large toe is the reflex area for the head, so it made sense. Reflexology relieved her headaches but, of course, did not change the bunion structurally. Eventually the podiatrist operated. During the recovery period, I worked in the referral area on the hand which corresponds to the toe, i.e., the thumb. These sessions helped the foot to heal. Later, when the foot was better, working on the foot itself helped to break up scar tissue and restore the skin to normal.
Copyright © 1988 by Laura Norman
Illustrations copyright © 1988 by Laura Norman and Ivey Barry